Changing the Dialog on Cybersecurity: How Boards Can Get It Right

board room chairs

Boards that struggle with their responsibility to oversee cybersecurity can cause security issues for their organization. Despite stating that cybersecurity is a key priority, many boards have yet to effectively prepare their organizations for potential cyber-attacks. This lack of focus on resilience ultimately results in boards failing their companies. Cybersecurity should be a top priority for board members due to the ever-changing threat landscape and the growing impact of cyber incidents. It is crucial to stay ahead of these threats to protect your organization.


The Current State of Cybersecurity Awareness in Boardrooms

There are several gaps in board-level understanding of cybersecurity. For starters, a common lack of understanding of the technical aspects in cybersecurity can result in difficulties for them to assess the risks and make informed decisions about cybersecurity investments. Additionally, there may be a gap in understanding the business impact of a data breach. Board members may not fully understand the financial and reputational risks associated with cybersecurity breaches. This can lead to them underestimating the importance and failing to allocate adequate resources. Lastly, there may be a lack of confidence in the organization’s cybersecurity capabilities. The board may not be confident in the organization’s ability to protect itself from cyber-attacks. This can lead them to being reluctant to invest in cybersecurity or to take risks that could expose the organization to attacks.

These gaps have a few negative consequences for an organization. They can make it more difficult to identify and mitigate cybersecurity risks, recover from cyber-attacks, and even lead to the failure of an organization. These misconceptions and challenges can make it difficult for boards to effectively manage cybersecurity risks. Boards need to work to overcome these challenges and ensure that their organizations are adequately protected from cyber-attacks.


Shifting Boardroom Mindset

By prioritizing cybersecurity at the executive level, organizations send a strong message to their employees that cybersecurity is a crucial aspect of their business. This instills a culture of awareness and vigilance, making it harder for attackers to achieve their goals. There are a number of ways that boards and executives can promote a culture of cybersecurity from the top down.

Boards should make it clear internally that cybersecurity is a top priority for the organization. This can be done by including cybersecurity in the mission statement, setting clear goals and objectives for cybersecurity, and allocating the right resources to cybersecurity initiatives. Next, board members should set the example by communicating regularly with employees about cybersecurity risks and best practices. This can be done through internal newsletters, intranet articles, and security awareness training. Lastly, it’s important that board members encourage employees to participate in cybersecurity efforts by providing training, creating a reporting tool for security incidents, and by rewarding employees who report security threats.

By incorporating a proactive approach to cybersecurity within an organization, boards can help create a culture of cybersecurity from the top down. Ultimately protecting their organization, keeping data safe, and improving their bottom line.


A Collaborative Approach with IT and Security Leaders

According to a survey taken by Harvard Business Review, only 69% of board members are in agreement with their Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs). Additionally, less than half of board members, about 47%, communicate with their CISOs regularly, and a third only see them during presentations. This lack of collaboration makes it difficult for directors and security leaders to effectively discuss cybersecurity priorities and strategies. Moreover, while 65% of board members believe their organization is at risk of a major cyberattack, only 48% of CISOs share this view. Additionally, CISOs face a challenge in communicating technical terms to the board in relatable business language regarding risk, reputation, and resilience. This mismatch and lack of communication hinders progress when it comes to cybersecurity in organizations.

The importance of regular cybersecurity reporting, metrics, and meetings to the board is crucial to help the board to gain a better understanding of the organization’s cybersecurity risks. This can help them to make informed decisions about cybersecurity investments and prioritize cybersecurity initiatives. Additionally, regular meetings and reporting can help identify potential problems and take corrective action before a problem becomes a major incident.

Some specific metrics a board may be inclined to see are as follows:

  1. Number of security incidents. This can help to identify trends and to identify areas where the organization needs to improve its security posture.
  2. Cost of security incidents. This can help to identify the financial impact of cyber-attacks and to prioritize cybersecurity initiatives.
  3. Time to detect and respond to security incidents. This can help to identify areas where the organization needs to improve its incident response capabilities.
  4. Employee awareness of cybersecurity risks. This can help to identify areas where the organization needs to improve its security awareness training.

It is also important for the board and IT team to understand that cybersecurity is a complex and ever-evolving field. To protect an organization from cyber-attacks, it is important to ask the right questions and seek external expertise when necessary. External expertise from cybersecurity professionals can help organizations identify and mitigate their risks. A third-party organization like AgileBlue can provide guidance on a wide range of cybersecurity solutions such as monitoring, detecting, and responding to cyber threats, incidence response, vulnerability management, and consultation. By asking the right questions and seeking external help, organizations can improve their cybersecurity posture and reduce the risk of being attacked.


Compliance and Regulatory Considerations

Cybersecurity regulations and compliance requirements are continually changing in response to developments in the cyber world, such as the increasing frequency and complexity of attacks, the extensive digital storage and processing of sensitive information, and the expanding interconnectivity of computer networks. Organizations are now under pressure to comply with numerous cybersecurity regulations and compliance prerequisites because of various factors. These prerequisites are intricate, time-consuming to execute, and can result in enormous expenses.

The board is key to the protection of the company’s cybersecurity and reducing the risk of legal penalties. They have a vital responsibility to set the tone for the organization and develop a strong cybersecurity culture. Additionally, holding management responsible for implementing and maintaining reliable cybersecurity measures is essential. To help minimize legal risks, the board can make sure that the organization has a comprehensive data security policy in place, ensure all employees are aware of the policy, have a plan to respond to data breaches, and have insurance in place to cover costs if a breach occurs.

Cyber-attacks are dangerous to businesses, regardless of size. According to Security Magazine, businesses lost an average of $4.24 million to data breaches in 2021. As a result, boards of directors must prioritize cybersecurity to safeguard their organizations from these dangers. It’s important that boards understand the risks, set clear expectations, and make cybersecurity a priority. To summarize, here are a few things boards can implement today to prioritize their cybersecurity:

  1. Establish a cybersecurity committee. The committee should be responsible for overseeing the organization’s cybersecurity program. The committee should be composed of board members with expertise in security and risk management.
  2. Require regular reports from management. Frequent reports on the organization’s cybersecurity should include information on risks, controls, and incidents.
  3. Review the organization’s cybersecurity policies and procedures. Review on a regular basis to ensure that they are up-to-date and effective.
  4. Conduct cybersecurity risk assessments. These should also be performed on a regular basis to identify and assess the organization’s cybersecurity risks.
  5. Invest in cybersecurity. Whether it’s internal resources or hiring third party cybersecurity experts, the investment will help protect against cyber-attacks.
  6. Hold management accountable. The board should hold management accountable for implementing and maintaining effective cybersecurity controls.

To keep up with the evolving threat landscape, it is crucial for boards to adopt a proactive and strategic cybersecurity approach. This involves placing more emphasis on preventing potential cyber-attacks beforehand, rather than just reacting to them after they have taken place. By prioritizing prevention, boards can effectively safeguard their organization’s data and systems from harm.

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